At the beginning, it looked like it was going to be a long night for the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Starting pitcher Zach King, taking the hill in place of usual Saturday starter Patrick Raby, saw Clemson leadoff hitter Logan Davidson smoke a double to left field, then walked star slugger Seth Beer and gave up a base hit that scored Davidson — and just like that, Vanderbilt was behind 1-0. A Davidson single in the second inning made it 3-0. King was really laboring, and the decision to start him over Raby was looking like a very questionable call by Tim Corbin.
King never really settled in — but he stopped allowing runs. After Davidson’s single made it 3-0, King induced his second double play of the night off the bat of Beer. King’s final line — four innings, five hits, three earned runs, four strikeouts, four walks, 76 pitches thrown, and only 39 of them for strikes — was certainly nothing to write home about. But it’s notable that he kept it from being worse than it was.
And that was important, because the offense evened things up in the second inning. Connor Kaiser led off the inning with a walk, and then the Commodores manufactured a run with some heady baserunning — Kaiser went first to third on a single, and the throw allowed Stephen Scott to advance to second as well — and then came in to score on a groundout by Julian Infante.
Then came one of the more bizarre sequences you’ll ever see in a baseball game. Ethan Paul was hit by a pitch — but the umpire ruled that he didn’t get to go to first base because he hadn’t attempted to get out of the way of the pitch. So, Paul brushed himself off and hit a two-run homer to even the score at 3.
More importantly, though, Vanderbilt’s pitchers stopped the bleeding. King struck out the side in the 3rd — though he also allowed two runners to reach base -- and got out of a jam in the 4th when Seth Beer lined into a double play. And in the fifth, Kaiser knocked a base hit through the infield to score Pat DeMarco from third, giving Vanderbilt a 4-3 lead. That was the final score as well, as Vanderbilt’s bullpen shut down Clemson the rest of the way.
Now, Vanderbilt is one win away from the super regionals, and they’ll have two chances to do it. They will play the winner of the elimination game between Clemson and St. John’s at 6:00 PM tomorrow — and if they don’t win that one, they’ll get another shot at advancing on Monday. Still, this is a good position to be in.